Digital Top Stories

Congress to consider giving DOJ powers to shut down infringing websites

By | Published on Wednesday 22 September 2010

A Senator in the US has put a bill to Congress proposing the Department Of Justice be given more power to close websites that provide access to copyright infringing content. Senator Patrick Leah wants the DoJ to be able to take swift action to shut down infringing websites in the US, and to force internet service providers to block access to such services based outside America.

The UK music and movie industries pushed for something similar to be included in the Digital Economy Act earlier this year, making it easier to force infringing websites offline through the British courts. But the proposals proved even more controversial than the three-strikes system also set out in the Act, with some fearing the proposed provisions could be used to target search engines like Google which inevitably do provide links to infringing content. In the end the specific clause setting out such provisions was cut and some vaguer commitments placed elsewhere in the Act instead.

Whether similar concerns will be raised in the US remains to be seen. Giving his support for the bill, the boss of the Recording Industry Association Of America, Mitch Bainwol, told reporters: “The trafficking of pirated American movies and music from rogue websites outside our borders is a big business. This bill is a welcome first step toward cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains these illegal operations and threatens the livelihoods of countless members of the American music community”.

As previously reported, although the US record industry is now following the lead of its European counterparts in putting most of its anti-file-sharing efforts into persuading ISPs to operate some sort of three-strike system, there have been few moves to date to force such a system on the net firms through legislation, as has happened in the UK, France and New Zealand.